I guess we could say this about Jim Johnson and J.J. Hardy: They are who we thought they were.
Somewhat overlooked in the Orioles' amazing run to first place by the sometimes surprising contributions of others, we can no longer look past the All-Star caliber seasons the O's are getting from that duo.
Johnson has taken the drama out of the ninth inning. That is a good time for there to be no drama. He now has saved 14 games in 14 chances with an ERA of 0.48. Yes, that is pretty good.
Johnson has allowed one run all year on 11 hits over 18 2/3 innings. Lefty batters hit .222 against him and right-handed batters are hitting just .103. When he has pitched with runners in scoring position, batters are just 1-for-12 against Johnson.
He has now saved 22 consecutive games since last Aug. 14. It is not an exaggeration to say he is the best closer in the American League right now. He was the league saves leader by one before he added another today.
He is pounding the ball down in the zone with confidence and has a stunning 3.67 ratio of ground-to-air outs. O's fans no longer look away from the screen when the team has a close lead in the ninth. Johnson is a key reason that the club is 14-4 in games decided by two runs or less.
Meanwhile, Hardy delivered another huge hit today with his two-run single, snapping a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning. Over his last six games, Hardy is batting .407 with eight RBIs.
Over his past 12 games, Hardy is also batting .407 with five homers and 12 RBIs. Hardy has six doubles in that stretch, so he has produced 11 extra-base hits in that dozen-game span. His average has jumped from .187 to .261 over the stretch.
We know Hardy will be stellar in the field. He is remarkably consistent and solid there. When you think about it, the Orioles are pretty rock solid on defense at the three most demanding positions of shortstop, catcher and center field.
When given a chance to turn a double play this year, Hardy and Robert Andino get it done. Ironically, defense has been big at times for a team that has made so many errors.
So now the Orioles are 25-14 and 11 games over .500. J.J. and JJ have been big for the club this year.
The fun continued in K.C. and now it's on to the Battle of the Beltways this weekend.